By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
How do you, as a curator, contextualize this music in a way that underscores its power and beauty but sidesteps the hipster fetishism that can sort of flatten it out — as when Moby used field recordings onPlay?
Honestly, I never really thought or worried about that. I’ve been a DJ for 13 years, a music critic for 12, a music scholar for 10 . . . My relationship to music, even when “professional,” has always been underscored by a personal passion. You have to be a little crazy to spend the kind of time I have on collecting records and writing about them. So I’ve always just gone where my instincts have led me, including with this comp. I will say one thing, I was never interested in picking songs strictly for the sake of obscurity. A number of the songs on here have been comped before, and that didn’t bother me. I felt like they could still use some shine — like the Lyndell or Erma Franklin tracks. Even a song that I don’t think many people have heard before, like “Keep My Baby Warm,” isn’t necessarily the rarest example of gospel soul out there but it’s a damn good song, and one of my personal favorites. I don’t know if it’s sexy enough for the hipster crowd to give a damn. But if you can’t feel the song, you just can’t feel.
Do you think the means through which we get our music affect our relationship to it? There’s been some theorizing that kids who can just download a song or assemble hundreds of options on an iPod don’t forge the same emotional connection to music that previous generations did — that it’s now much more disposable.
I think the sheer volume of music that exists today is overwhelming for someone like me — and I’m only 33. I definitely grew up on the cusp of the pre-Internet/post-Internet world. The studies I’ve seen suggest that people value music less because it’s so ubiquitous, but what encourages me is the fact that people still want music in their lives — and I definitely think specific songs resonate with people. That’s why I love Ne-Yo’s [current single] “So Sick.” The chorus is all about why love songs are so addictive as he bemoans, “Why can’t I turn off the radio?” He’s a young dude but he gets it. His listeners, I think, get it — especially since the song has topped the charts. We’re not in a world where music has become simply background noise yet. I doubt we ever will, even once the 100-terabyte brain-implant iPods come out.
Are there plans to make this a series or is this a one-off deal?
Kevin Drost just e-mailed me the other day and asked, “So, should we start thinking about Volume 2?” We haven’t mapped anything out yet, but for Volume 2 I’d either want to do jazz songs, both vocal and instrumental, or a personal love of mine: cover songs. I put out a mix CD of cover songs, on my own, a few years back and I obsessively collect soul, jazz, reggae, calypso, psych, etc., albums with interesting covers. A recent acquisition is a Polish-language rock album with a cover of Bill Withers’ “Kissin’ My Love.” Crazy.
What’s your favorite song on the compilation, and why?
Ha, that’s like asking me which of my kids I love the best, though, uh, I only have one. It’s a close tie. “Keep My Baby Warm” was the first song I knew I absolutely, positively wanted on this comp. It just had to be on there. I want as many people to hear it as possible. But my favorite from-the-gut song is probably “Piece of My Heart” by Erma Franklin. When I first heard it and then learned how Erma’s original was always overshadowed by Janis Joplin’s cover, it just made the heart-wrenching power of the song so much more poignant. It’s so beautiful yet absolutely devastating.
Ernest Hardy’s collection of criticism, Blood Beats Vol. 1: Demos, Remixes and Extended Versions, published by Red Bone Books, comes out this week.